The Wonder, October 5 - VR Boost, Voice Control, and Brain Scans

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Happy Friday!

Have you ever been hacked? Not only are your chances going up, but as the amount and type of data you store increases, so does your vulnerability. Guessable passwords are still the weak point, but sometimes a third party that stores your data gets hacked. Just this week Facebook revealed that at least 50 million accounts were exposed.

But what if you assume you will be hacked and that it is just a matter of time? How would that change what you write, what you store, or where you store it? It’s a good tactic to take and one that ‘future you’ might thank ‘current you’ for. Sheera Frankel, who writes about cybersecurity for the NY Times, goes deeper.

Now on to the Wonder.

VR Boost

A new study found that VR boosts workouts by unexpectedly reducing pain during exercise.

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Andrew’s Take: The brain is lazy. When you exercise or do hard manual labor, it does everything in its power to convince you to stop. But when the brain is having fun, you often don’t realize how hard you are working. That simple concept, paired with virtual reality, could drive the next generation of exercise techniques.   

Darius’s Take: It’s actually pretty clunky to work out with a VR headset on, but the research on VR health benefits keeps piling on. The technology for the headsets is still pretty new, but we can expect to find better ways of delivering an experience that will make moving (and feeling) in a virtual world more natural.

Voice Control

Google launches a voice control app to help people with limited mobility navigate their phones.

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Andrew’s Take: Not everything we write about has to sound like it’s from the future. Voice technology is all around us today and it presents a lot of opportunities for people with limited mobility. What can help navigate the phone today, can help navigate the home or workplace tomorrow.

Darius’s Take: The innovation in voice AI over the last few years has led to an explosion in voice-powered devices. We’ve seen Amazon gamble big on this by making it easy for a manufacturer to add Alexa controls to any hardware. But this story illustrates that there is lower hanging fruit in terms of taking advantage of the advancements in technology to improve one’s limited abilities. Google’s first Voice Assist was clunky and limited, but it seems like they’re really paying attention now.

Brain Scans

In a new study, researchers determined that brain scans could reveal who is more skilled at their job (and predict who may excel in the future).

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Andrew’s Take: More evidence that we don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to the brain. That a brain scan can lead some to explain that creative thinkers are just ‘wired differently’ doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but it is fascinating to see us try and reverse engineer our most complex organ based on modern scanning technology and the machine learning algorithms that are needed to interpret them. From a practical point of view, the more that technology can be used to monitor our doctors, drivers, or caretakers, the fewer mistakes will occur.

Darius’s Take: It’s an innovative new method of looking at how shifting brain activity connects functional activations of certain brain regions with skill proficiency. In other words, the research ties activity in different brain regions to skill proficiency. Taking advantage of this assessment method could significantly speed up someone’s career decision process by analyzing the shift in brain activity while going through various training sessions.

Words from Isaac Asimov...

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week.

-Andrew and Darius